Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the customer life cycle and how a customer moves through a business. This is just a rough idea but it got me thinking what I started to break it down. I realized how much not only my business is missing but also how many other businesses fail to help a customer complete a life cycle. I define the life cycle as follows:customer_life_cycle

  1. Customer has never heard of your business.
  2. Customer hears of your business by form of advertising, word of mouth, etc.
  3. Customer engages business by going to their website, store front, calling, etc.
  4. Sales cycle happens.
  5. Customer either purchases or leaves.
  6. Business follows up with customer.
  7. Processes starts over at step 2 or 3.

Thinking about most businesses, they focus on steps 2, 3, and 4. To me that is how most businesses feel about a customer life cycle. Advertise, get the customer to come in, sell them something, repeat. But that isn’t how a customer life cycle works and several steps are forgotten.

Let’s break down each piece and why each step is important.

1. Customer has never heard of your business. This is where the customer starts. The first step is figuring out who your ideal customer is, where they are, and what are the best ways to get your business noticed by them.

2. Customer hears of your business. The knowledge from step one should make this step easier. You should be able to create a clear message and brand/image that will attract your ideal customer. Then employ that message in your advertising and marketing campaigns. Also you should have separate campaigns for new customers and returning customers.

3. Customer engages your business. If you have successfully done step two, your customers should come to you so you can engage them in some way. This is a key step to get them to move onto the next step. Engaging the customer is different from the sales cycle. It is about showing the customer that what they have heard about your business (from step two) is true.

4. Customer enters the sales cycle. The sales cycle is all about getting the customer to want to purchase something. The cycle length all depends on what you are selling. At the end if you are successful the customer should want to make a purchase.

5. Customer makes a purchase or leaves. This is the step where money actually exchanges hands. Believe it or not a lot of companies make this step very difficult by requiring customers to jump through hoops such as paying with cash only or credit card only, going through a long checkout process, being inconvenienced by other customers trying to make a purchase, etc. In this step you should also prepare for the next step by gathering information about your customer without being annoying.

6. Business follow up. This step is often overlooked or placed on the customer. If your business successfully completed step five, then you should have enough information about the customer to follow up if with them to see if they are happy about their purchase. If a the customer isn’t, it is up to your business to correct any issues.

If this cycle is done properly the customer should start to develop customer loyalty. They will more than likely skip step two and move back into step three or use step two to keep up on what your business is doing.

The customer life cycle isn’t always a smooth process. Customers can exit the life cycle and move back to the beginning or even back to an unknown customer at any time if any step is executed poorly. If that happens, getting the customer back to step three can be a challenge.

This week take some time to look at your customer life cycle. What steps are you missing? Did I forget any steps? What steps can you improve upon? What steps are you doing an excellent job on? Take a moment and share your thoughts in the comments below.